Tapati (tapati) wrote,

Loving Your Body Means Taking Care Of It Too

There has often been tension in the fat acceptance and body image movements between rejecting the constant dieting, much of it at starvation level, and obsession with becoming thin for social acceptance, and finding out where being healthy at every size fits in. Just what does one do when doctors tell you frankly and honestly that if you are prediabetic or have heart disease, losing a bit of weight will help. Early on the FA movement tried to reject this notion soundly and there were lots of articles and studies, comparisons to countries with healthy fat populations and so on. Lately the evidence has mounted that some kinds of body fat are unhealthy and directly connected to Type II diabetes and heart disease. Yet the urge to go on a severe calorie-restricted diet is dangerous for other reasons. It can reawaken the obsession with becoming thin and lead to other unhealthy behaviors in that pursuit. Since even a modest and safe 10% of body weight lost can help a prediabetic person avoid full-blown diabetes, here is what I suggest:

Avoid the scale. Weigh only in the doctor's office. The scale leads to obsession with weight as opposed to health, reawakens old dreams of being thin, and can destroy your mood, plunging you into depression and perhaps a binge. Think of the point being the journey itself. Forget about specific weight loss goals. Continue loving your body, every inch, and making it strong and healthy.

Increase exercise, starting slowly if you've been inactive. Do not exercise directly after eating a meal. It's easiest on your heart to wait one to two hours after a meal so your blood supply is not directed to your digestive process and your heart has plenty of oxygen to work with. Start where you are--if you haven't been exercising, walk five-10 minutes. Each day add a bit more until you are reliably up to one hour. If you cannot go out one day, put on some music and dance! If you like the pool, change it up on some days with water aerobics and swimming. If you get sick, don't push it, but get back as soon as you can. The idea is to make it a habit. You might find a walking partner and this makes it much more fun to do.

Without going into deprivation mode or frantic calorie counting, address your portion sizes and fat content. Limit (but don't completely eliminate) the treats that are low in fiber or nutritional value. Plan your treats so that you don't get to the point of feeling deprived. Eat smaller portions of them. DO NOT start thinking of food as good or bad! That puts you right back into obsession mode. Do think in terms of some foods having more nutritional value, vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and try to have more of those in your life. But no food is "bad." There's nothing wrong with a small piece of chocolate cake or a small bowl (not a full ben & jerry's carton) of ice cream. No need to despair or beat yourself up for having one. It is part of your life and always should be. Just not all day every day. :)

I mention portion sizes because after I first got involved with fat acceptance, I threw everything connected to dieting out the window. I needed to do that to recover from the obsession, the tendency to verbally abuse myself over food, the focus on good vs bad foods--I needed to recover from dieting for the social approval of being thin. I succeeded in terms of once again being able to enjoy salads, raw vegetables and other foods I had grown to hate because they went with the deprivation of dieting. But at the same time my portion sizes had grown. When I began having chest pain and found from the doctor that my cholesterol numbers were high, I had to take a look at things like portion size and the fat content. I started using all low-fat dairy (and non-fat yogurt). I cut out butter OR margarine on bread. I began to enjoy it lightly toasted and plain or with protein based spreads. I switched to olive oil for cooking. I limited fried foods and junk food but if I really wanted something, it wasn't forbidden. That way I didn't grow to crave it and go on a binge. I found that potato chips seemed too greasy to me as I got used to a low fat diet. After reading that drinking two sodas a day led to a 2/3 greater chance of developing type II diabetes, I cut out daily sodas altogether and relegated them to special treat status. (I have a family history of type II diabetes.)

Be sure to plan for snacks. I try to include a protein in every snack, paired with a whole grain or legume. A small snack can help you avoid getting too hungry later and eating so quickly you don't notice when you're full. And you do want to tune into when you feel full and not go past that mark.

Good news: dark chocolate is good for your heart. Look for a high cacao content. I get individually wrapped chocolates and have one at a time and really savor it. Over time I got used to dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate. It goes nicely with dried fruit.

Add some weight training into the mix for your bone health. Your local community colleges will have classes and of course there are videos and websites.

If you move every day, if you watch your portion sizes (your stomach will shrink to a normal size if you've been eating bigger portions and you won't feel hungry), you will naturally lose a few pounds. Do not worry about the amount but keep up the lifestyle changes and your blood work will improve. If you feel like you're not sure about which foods are best for your health-based program, you can get referred to a nutritionist. But basically, the less processed the foods the better they are for you. Fresh veggies, lean proteins, a few heart healthy nuts, beans and legumes--we all know these are good for us and they taste good as well. It does not have to be like the boring punishment foods we ate in our crash-dieting days! You can often find low-fat healthy cooking classes in community colleges or parks and recreation courses.

Wherever your weight settles, you've already made a commitment to love your body and help keep it healthy. Your reward may not be as dramatic as the social approval of society for being rail-thin, as you used to dream about. [And which you may still be tempted to reach for.] But you will find that you have more energy, that you can bound up stairs that you used to drag yourself up, you will breathe easier walking uphill, and you will feel strong. We can be big, we can be beautiful, and we can be powerful too. That's what health at every size means.

But aside from any question about size acceptance and health, the fact remains that every human being has the right to determine for him or her self whether or not to love their body at any particular size from thin to fat, what to do or not to do about healthy habits, how to eat and how to live. No one else gets the right to criticize you for the choices you make and you are always deserving of being treated with respect--especially BY YOURSELF.

Here are a few links you might find interesting regarding the tension between body love and issues of health at every size (which shouldn't seem mutually exclusive but to some they are):




Tags: body image, diet, eating disorders, exercise, fat acceptance, fat phobia, health

  • Protagonists of Color Grant us Perspective

    What Do We Look Like in Your Mind? – Kat Tanaka Okopnik I noticed something alarming one day as I was reading a book with a protagonist who was a…

  • Salvaged Book Pages

    A story about a Beatrix Potter book, rescued from the snow, badly damaged, and how some of it was salvaged. Beautiful photos:…

  • Agents of Y.A.W.N.

    Dave is catching up on an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode I'd already watched and we are chatting about how utterly boring this show is. I think it is…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.